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Painting the armies of Agincourt

As part of the Royal Armouries’ commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

When David Marshall and the Perry brothers first spoke to Rob Henson and me (Aly Morrison) about the diorama, we were very excited to be involved in a project of this size and scope. We have both been involved in painting wargaming figures for the better part of two decades each, and in that time it’s rare that a project comes along that you can sink your teeth into as wholeheartedly as this one. The scale of the display is also a lot larger than most dioramas that have been attempted (to our knowledge).

Miniature model of the Battle of Agincourt

Credit: Daniel Faulconbridge, Wargames Illustrated.

Close up of the miniature model of the Battle of Agincourt
The initial plan was that Rob and I would be asked to do a portion of the painting, and then as the display brief evolved and the numbers of models were finalised we became more heavily involved – until we were set to paint around 4,000 figures. (The final count I believe came to 4,109.) We kept a white board in our office that we updated every time we finished a batch of miniatures and increased our percentage tally closer and closer to the 100% mark. This helped motivate us both, whilst also showing how far we had to go.

In the past both Rob and I have painted numerous wargaming armies of over 200 figures, but this was an order of magnitude higher than that. From an early stage we discussed what we believed would be a taxing, but settled on a realistic target of 500 figures per month and then set about dividing the models that had been delivered into batches of around that size.

This project was made more interesting (and exciting) because both Rob and I were getting married to our respective fiancées within a week of each other at the end of May 2015, and this meant that we had to keep that in mind on the run up to the final few months of the project as well as preparing for our respective big days.

Throughout the 12-18 months that we were directly involved with the project, we made sure that we were constantly liaising with David, Alan and Michael with regards to any queries we had regarding the models, the uniforms and the painting palettes that we were working from. This meant that we were able to keep to these self-appointed targets and provide each batch of miniatures at the end of each month on time, as well as making sure that the finished models were suitable and coherent with each previous batch and the display as a whole.
Miniature model of a soldier on a horse surrounded by soldiers
One of the most exciting things about the whole display was seeing the models starting to be laid out on the table and the finished display before it was transported to the Tower and installed.
close up of miniature models of soldiers
With the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt fast approaching next week (Sunday 25th October), the interest that is being received for the display goes to show how the events from our history are still relevant and interesting to people now.

If you are a student of history you may have a particular appreciation for the efforts that have gone into this reproduction and diorama however, if you are not aware of the events that led up to and followed on from the Battle of Agincourt then this may just be a gateway to the period. This is one of the most powerful things that dioramas (and historical wargaming) allow, by giving a visual backdrop to key moments in history and thereby putting events and actions in context.

With other events of historic significance (such as the centenary of The Great War) also reflecting and resonating in the collective public consciousness at the moment, it would be fantastic to see more projects such as this commissioned and produced to allow the general public to really engage with these significant conflicts.

We’re both looking forward to working on new projects and glad that the involvement of both of us at Painted Wargames has received such a fantastic response. We encourage you all to see the model itself at the Tower of London, and hope you enjoy it.

close up of miniature model soldiers stood in a row
A how to guide by Aly Morrison

The first thing I do when painting any miniature is give it a coat of spray primer, usually grey but black or white can also be used. Once the primer has completely dried I like to start painting the largest area of colour first – with a medieval man at arms this is silver (if I were painting a large number of armoured figures I may even be tempted to prime the models with silver spray paint).

miniature model of a soldier lying on the floor and cavalry charging
The next stage is to give the armour an ink wash, I like to use a mixture of blue and brown ink – this gives a nice warm shade of grey, once this is dry I put a second coat of wash on any mail.

The armour is then highlighted using a slightly dilute silver paint, followed by pure silver to the edges of the plates, top of the helms, knees, elbows etc.

Miniature model of a soldier in yellow and red holding a pike

Thomas, Lord Camoys miniature from the Agincourt Model

Next the various items of clothing are painted in turn using the same principle as the armour; base coat, ink wash, dilute highlight, final highlight.

Now we come to the heraldry, I use a darker shade of the base coat to draw the initial design then paint it in using an appropriate none dilute shade, the design is then defined using an undiluted highlight colour. The big secret here is to take your time and be as neat as possible – which is common sense really.

 miniature model of a soldier from the Agincourt Model

Sir Thomas Erpingham miniature from the Agincourt Model

When painting straps and belts I try to use a colour that is a good contrast to the clothing and armour to make these details really stand out.

Once everything is coloured and shaded I like to leave the miniature for a while, and then go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes to check if anything needs tidied up or given a bit more shading.

The final thing is a coat of varnish, which can be matt or gloss depending on the finish required. For the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt diorama the finish was kept matt to give the model a more authentic appearance.

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